Saturday, January 26, 2008


I've been sick since Wednesday night. It started with a sore throat, which was followed with my ears and sinuses plugging up and a fever. My throat has never been so messed up- I can barely talk. Thursday was really bad. I slept most of the day. I only had water and crackers to eat. This afternoon I was finally feeling good enough to sit in the bathtub and exfoliate off 2 days of sweating and greasy hair. Then I was able to go to the drug store and grocery. Now I have medicine, juice, and soup. I don't have much of an appetite but I am thirsty, so liquids are good.
I ran out of my usual television shows this afternoon, and started watching BBC America. This re-acquainted me with British comedy and sci-fi, and lead to an amazing discovery- Doctor Who is back in production! For the less geeky among us, Doctor Who started in 1963 with the premise of a "Time Lord" (a guy, known as the Doctor) who can travel in time and space using the "TARDIS" (Time and Relative Dimension(s) in Space), a 1950s London police box, which is much bigger on the inside than the outside. The really clever and critical twist to the show is that the Doctor, besides having 2 hearts, a sonic screwdriver, and a passion for dropping in on various civilizations and planets and saving the day, is that he can regenerate into another person. This means that when the actor playing the Doctor decides to leave the show, they just have him regenerate into the new actor and the show continues. The original run lasted until 1989, with 7 Doctors (and number 8 in a 1996 movie). The series started up again in 2005, and is now on Doctor 10. While I usually find the Doctors to be charming and likable in a wacky and humorous way, the real draw for me as a teenage girl were the sidekicks, known as "companions".
The Doctor's companions were usually picked up in the course of an adventure, join forces with the Doctor, and accompany him for a time on more adventures. Some died, but most bowed out at some point, to continue fighting in a revolution or something like that. There have been about 30 companions. The companions are usually female, independent, rebellious, smart, brave, stubborn, and very pretty. I love them. One of them, Romana, was a Time Lord herself, and arguably smarter than the Doctor (especially in her mind) but less experienced perhaps. She even regenerated once on the show. My favorite companion, though, was Leela the savage. You didn't want to piss her off or you'd get a poison dart. Ace was also a favorite both with me and Craig, my fellow high school Doctor Who and Monty Python geek. Ace was punky chemist adventurer who enjoyed blowing things up, as a form of creative expression of course. And Tegan Jovanka had the coolest name I'd ever heard. (The picture is of Rose Tyler and Doctor 10 saying their goodbyes.)
The idea of running away with an asexual humanoid alien and having exciting adventures on other planets and in other time periods, requiring bravery and heroism, was incredibly appealing to me as a teenager, and the new version certainly has its charms. The companions are still brave and independent, although the Doctor is no longer asexual. The companions were often sexy in the original version, but the sexual tension between the Doctor and the companions has been ramped up considerably. Doctor Who was revived by BBC Wales, which is also responsible for the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood, featuring sex scenes, gay smooching, and smoking hot Welshies. (I'm a quarter Welsh, by the way. We're hot.)
The more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm home on a Saturday night watching Doctor Who like I did when I was 14, except that I'm full of snot and bummed I couldn't go with my friend to one of her bizarre parties. Not her party, exactly, she gets invited to unusual parties and sometimes brings me along. They are adventures, to be sure. At least I'm comfy on my couch watching adventures in my warm apartment, with soup.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Flag Parade

Deianera by Evelyn de Morgan
I’ve been reflective lately. I had another relationship end for the same reason they usually do, I got sick of being treated disrespectfully. He was well behaved in the beginning, and I really thought he was a nice guy, a catch even. When the insulting comments, dismissive attitude, sarcasm, and raising his voice at me started, I didn’t want to believe that he was the asshole he had hinted to me, even outright told me, he was. He went from emotionally confessing to me that he was afraid he would be abusive like his dad was, to screaming the accusation that I thought he was abusive, to it finally being clear to me that he was. It definitely escalated, but the red flags were there. Instead of taking them seriously, I made excuses for him- he was stressed about work and his family, he did realize that he was hurting me, he didn’t mean what he said, he was really trying to act better. Instead, it just got worse. He told me our fights were my fault, and I was causing him to act the way he was, and I believed him. I believed him until I realized that there was nothing I could do and no way to act to get him to treat me with respect. The harder I tried, the worse it got. Now I realize that you can’t get someone to treat you with respect who doesn’t respect you, no matter how hard you try. I’ve learned that the red flags, when put together, are a pattern. I don’t think I recognized what the pattern meant until I wrote it down and re-read what turned out to be a long list of red flags-

is angry a lot
yells at the TV
gets way too angry about little things, or things that it doesn't make sense to get angry about
gets personally offended by things that have nothing to do with him
has disturbing road rage
yells "I'm not yelling" at you
doesn't have friends
doesn't want to meet your friends
acts different in public than in private
makes you feel guilty
makes little digs at you
is like Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, never know which one to expect
complains about other people a lot
doesn’t seem to have much good to say about women
passionately hates Hillary Clinton but loves Bill
likes to tell you about how other women did him wrong
wants you to pledge your undying love to him and swear you’ll never leave him
freaks out about how afraid he is that you’ll leave him after he acted badly, and you get so concerned about him and his insecurities that you forget about how he treated you
is paranoid
If you talk about yourself, steers the conversation back to him
is exhausting to be around
is self-righteous
is patronizing, talks to you like you’re stupid
What he says and what he does doesn't match (“You’re smart! I love you! I respect you!”)
says things that don't make sense
is passive-aggressive
yells at you if you disagree with him
makes accusations
says you said things you didn't
yells (at all)
does something wrong, and responds by telling you that you did something wrong
does something wrong and says you made him do it
is critical
puts you down
doesn’t respect your privacy
is needy
flames you
hangs up on you
says things he says later he didn't mean
acts hateful
won't leave you alone
puts you down to other people
acts like a jerk to other people
doesn't have impulse control
makes you uncomfortable
regularly makes you cry
When you cry he gets angry or uncomfortable (“You’re just trying to make me feel bad”)
accuses you of having PTSD just to get sympathy
confesses someone got a restraining order on him
talks about beating people up or fights he got into
likes to argue
spends his free time picking fights with people on the internet and looking up violent videos on youtube
tries to get you to watch violent videos with him
makes fun of your clothes/shoes/appearance
feels you up in public
is selfish in bed
says you stink
says you're indecisive
accuses you of doing things that he's doing
says he wants to hear your side and then repeatedly interrupts you and gets angry
contradicts you
throws personal things you told him back in your face
threatens you (at all)
says your problem is your ex-boyfriends, not him
accuses you of being abusive
is sarcastic
belittles you
mocks you
When you argue, tries to throw you out of the apartment you share and pay half the rent on
won't let you move your stuff in
won't let you have half the closet
insists on putting together the ikea furniture you bought even though you love putting together furniture
makes demands, tells you what to do instead of asking
wants to negotiate whenever you want something
When you try to talk to him about the relationship, he brings up a litany of complaints about you that he's never brought up before
changes the subject
degrades your contributions to the relationship
It has to be done his way
accuses you of thinking he's abusive and it makes him mad
tells you what your problem is
pulls guilt trips on you when he does something for you
does you a “favor”, then makes it clear he thinks you owe him
says he'll pay you back, but when you ask for the money he says you owe him money
thinks you should be grateful he's your boyfriend, and not question anything he does
won't compromise
doesn't try to work things out with you, just wants to win the argument
doesn't have sympathy for you
is cruel
His bad behavior escalates
gets mad when you do something that he does himself
It seems to get worse and worse
It’s black or white with him, no middle ground
seems to want to destroy your position, completely discredit what you have to say
There doesn’t seem to be any limits to how he acts or what he says
swore he wouldn't act that way again, and he does
The calmer you talk to him, the angrier he gets
lunges at you or towers over you when you disagree
says things specifically to hurt you
seems to misinterpret your words/intentions/actions, but when you try to clarify it doesn’t help
It’s almost like he is purposely mischaracterizing your words/intentions/actions so he can fight with you about it
is not the person you thought he was

question his sanity
question your own sanity
are hurt by the way he acts
If you didn't love him you might not like him
are embarrassed by him
can't talk to him about money or politics or family without him getting mad
are always trying not to piss him off
try to change yourself to make him happy
don't feel right
don't feel like yourself
feel uneasy, and worried about what will happen next
are unhappy
don't tell your friends what's really going on
Nothing you do makes him happy
ask him what you need to do so that he’ll stop being mad at you, and he says you’re just saying that to get sympathy from him
would never treat him like that
are afraid of him
feel intimidated
make excuses for him
stay in the relationship because you feel obligated, you feel sorry for him, or you're worried what will happen to him if you leave
If he had acted like this when you first started dating, you never would have gotten involved with him

I started thinking differently about what happened after making that list. I wish I was exaggerating, because I’m embarrassed that I stayed for so long with someone who treated me that way and who is clearly an angry, anti-social, selfish person. I was concentrating on the good things, and dismissing the bad until it got too bad to ignore. I was forgiving. Instead of thinking about how he was hurting me and making life difficult for me, I was focusing on how obviously emotionally disturbed he was and how I thought I could help. He told me so often how I made his life better, he was so in love with me, we were perfect for each other, and how devastated he’d be if I left that I thought his angry and intimidating behavior wasn’t really him and didn’t reflect how he really felt. I was wrong.

I realize that I have ways of thinking that are not attracting me to healthy relationships. I think I have to earn respect, not that I deserve it. I think love is painful and self-sacrifice. I have a hard time recognizing and rejecting disrespect and abuse because it never seems as bad as what my dad or uncle did to me. I think I can handle it, without questioning whether I should. It does make me feel bad about myself though. It reinforces the feelings that I’m not good enough, that the way I’ve been treated is my fault and I don't deserve better. When I read that list, though, I recognize the type of person I was with, and the way he acted was not my responsibility. No one deserves to be treated like that. I got caught up in the blame game that I am so familiar with from my childhood- I’m mistreated, I’m told it’s my fault, I try everything I can to stop the abuse, nothing works and it just gets worse. What makes it worse is putting up with it at all. I thought that if I could have a good relationship it would prove to me that I wasn’t damaged, but I don’t believe I can get self-acceptance from someone else anymore. Love does not conquer all. It certainly shouldn’t feel the way it has for me. It feels a lot better to be single than to be in a relationship like that. Acceptance and respect are things I will find in myself.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Rest In Peace

My friend Juliana's rat Cecil died on January 16. Cecil was a sweet and funny rat. (And cute!) Condolences to Juliana and Cecil's roommate Roman.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Cadex by Leonora Carrington

I feel discouraged. Before I moved from Seattle, I was going to try group therapy for adult women survivors of sexual abuse (notice I used "survivor" instead of "victim".) Group therapy is especially effective for sexual abuse survivors, I've read. There is a lot of shame and isolation with rape and sexual abuse, which makes connecting with others who share both the traumatic experience and the aftermath a possible lifeline. The challenges people face in the aftermath is often hard for people who have not experienced it to understand, even if they are sympathetic and compassionate. It is hard to fathom what it does to your sense of yourself and your worth. So I tried to find a group in L.A., called two different help lines for mental health and victims of abuse and rape, and they could not have been less helpful. They were overwhelmingly unhelpful, bored, maybe. I wonder why these people decided to work a help line. Maybe they were confused about the concept.

So, no luck so far. I'm trying not to give up. There must be literally thousands of abuse survivors in the city of Los Angeles, ergo; there must be support groups and therapy group. I feel like this is really important for me, to get this kind of support and affinity. There is a part of me that knows what I need to get better, and this is something I've wanted for a while. Calling strangers and trying to even say the words "sexual abuse" and ask for help is terrifying. I've gotten to point that I can say that my dad was abusive. I can kind of put on the tough girl act and say, "yeah, my dad beat me" and I can feel like a survivor. I don't feel like a survivor when I think of the sexual abuse or the rape. I feel weak and powerless, like a doll, limp and dull. The feelings of horror, disgust, and fear are still intense. The flashbacks are oddly like in movie, images, not memories. The kind that hit you, make you close your eyes and grimace as if you were slapped in the forehead. The pain is fresh; I feel exposed. I wish I felt like a survivor, but I feel like a victim.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Painting by Leonora Carrington

A couple weeks ago I got satellite TV hooked up at my new apartment. (I work for the company so I get it for free!) I have one of those receivers where I can record shows and watch them later (fast forwarding though the commercials for the non-PBS shows) which is heavenly for a political junkie like myself. My list of shows to record include The News Hour With Jim Lehrer, Nightly Business Report, BBC World News, Frontline, Washington Week, McLaughlin Group, Meet The Press, The Chris Matthews Show, and This Week With George Stephanopoulos. As you might imagine, I've watched a lot of analysis of Hillary Clinton's win in New Hampshire.

Personally, I agree that some of her "emotional" moments before the primary were a factor. I know that I was feeling very supportive of her after I heard about the men who yelled "Iron my shirts!" at her. She is treated differently, by political pundits and voters, because she's a woman. On the political shows, that discussion about how she has to be both tough and soft keeps coming up. It’s like she's supposed to be deodorant- tough like a man, but soft like a woman. Of course, her primary opponent, Barack Obama, has to deal with similar questions about whether he can appeal both to whites and blacks at the same time- do white people like him too much? If he "appeals" to black people, will white people get uncomfortable? Both Obama and Clinton are expected to walk the fine line between connecting with the disenfranchised and less politically powerful group they are a part of, while not freaking out the majority. (White men are not the majority, of course, but they are in politics.)

Hillary has been accused of playing the "victim card", a criticism that is almost impossible to avoid when you are part of a victimized group. The worst thing you can do in our society is be seen as a victim. This is a huge part of the shame and stigma of being victimized- you don't seem to deserve any sympathy or understanding in our culture. It's as if you are supposed to go away until you've worked out all the anger, sadness, and grief that is a normal reaction to an attack on your dignity and sense of self, and not come back until you've "fixed" yourself and can properly take your place in the status quo. It's really frustrating when you feel you can't express your feelings and the pain of your experiences AND be accepted by our society. People don't like angry women, angry black people, angry gay people, angry rape victims, etc. It turns people off. Expressing anger is the quickest way to lose sympathy.

This has been a huge struggle for me, because I learned a number of lessons from being a kid who was not taken care of within my family, and had adults outside my family turn their back on me when they knew about the abuse. I learned to keep my mouth shut, because complaining only reflected badly on me and made people uncomfortable. I learned sympathy is conditional on "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" and proving yourself worthy of support. You don't generally get it prior to all the work you have to do to make up for being disadvantaged. Everyone loves a success story. They just don't want to be on the hook for making it happen. A story about a foster kid or homeless kid getting through school and making something of themselves just wouldn't tug at the heartstrings in the same way if as a society we were committed to the idea that all children should be protected, educated, and have opportunities.

This is where I start to feel uncomfortable with myself, and just how bitter I am. I hate being bitter, but that's what happened after years of suppressing my anger. I learned to be the good little victim to survive. As a kid, guilt and pity were pretty much my only playing cards with adults, and they held very little power. I can give numerous example of times when adults knew what was happening and didn't live up to their responsibilities to me, from the therapist who told me that I was being abused but didn't report it (as is required by law), to the teachers who encouraged me to drop out of school rather than trying to help me when I was put in foster care, to the police who dropped the case against my dad and great-uncle despite having all the physical evidence they could possibly need. When I got angry I caught hell for it, and the message I got from the way I was treated is that what happened to me was my fault and my problem, and relying on help from anyone else was just going to lead to disappointment. It's the American way! Only losers need help. Keep it in the family! Just because you're a kid doesn't mean you get special treatment, you leech on society! Look pretty, don't laugh too loud, don’t challenge people, and don't ever let anyone know how different you are. Just try to fit in!

What does this have to do with the presidential nominee, you may ask. We have a long way to go in this country before women, minorities, and other disenfranchised groups are treated fairly, and I think it has a lot to do with how we silence people. "Victims" don't truly have a voice, because the victim narrative is very limited. You can talk about how you triumphed despite adversity. You can talk about how well you fit in despite your differences, how you're just as good as anyone else. You don't talk about how you feel- that you're angry or hurt or depressed. You don't talk about how the system or society or other people failed you. Somehow that means you're not taking responsibility for yourself, which implies that we do continue to blame the victim. Holding anyone else responsible is not allowed. You can play the good little victim, but you'll be criticized for that as well. We expect people who have been victimized to either rejoin society by suppressing their pain and experiences, or be rejected and have your victimization paraded around and mocked.

I find this frustrating because I see examples how unsympathetic our society can be all the time. The biggest frustration I feel now, though, is how I've internalized these pressures. I do feel separate, and different, and alone even though I know I have support and friends and power in my life as an adult. I don't feel like a victim anymore, and I can't be hurt the way I was when I was so venerable. I have a voice, but I feel conflicted. I'm not supposed to be angry, I think, because that part of my life is over, but I am angry. Who I was back then is still part of who I am now. I suffered a lot of loss, and I still feel that I can only rely on myself. The idea of getting too close to people is uncomfortable, because depending on someone else or trusting someone else feels like I'm setting myself up to get hurt.

I don't want to be perceived as an angry, bitter, accusatory person, because I see myself as a happy, friendly, open person. The reality is much more complicated. I feel a lot of things, and who I am and my experiences cannot be packaged into some role, like the "pulled herself up by her bootstraps, creative and charming survivor" or the "angry feminist" or the "sad little damaged victim". I've tried to do it to myself, both in an attempt to control how others saw me and to distance myself from the pain of feeling betrayed and rejected. It has often been an exercise in self-hatred, because the only explanation that made sense to me at the time was that what was done to me was my fault, just like everyone was telling me. I rejected myself more severely than anyone else could. I fragmented myself into those roles, and self-acceptance means giving a voice to all of me. No one can be understood as a role, we are all complicated people no matter what groups we belong to, but our experiences as members of groups are part of who we are, I think. The ultimate pain is denying who we are.